Runway use at Schiphol

Schiphol has five long take-off and landing runways and one shorter one, and is a hub in a global network of connections.

This function as a hub airport means that at certain times of the day, there is a large amount of incoming traffic and somewhat less outbound traffic. At other times, there is more outbound than incoming traffic. There are a number of peak periods in the day in both incoming and outbound traffic. At these peak times, more than 100 flights are handled per hour. 

Runway combinations

Which runways and runway combinations are used is determined firstly by the weather. The environmental rules for the use of Schiphol also play a role in determining the use of the runways. This takes place on the basis of the  ‘preferred sequence’.

When two take-off runways are in use, departing aircraft are assigned the runway at the location that best matches the direction of the destination. It is consequently possible that a number of aircraft will take off one after the other from one runway, while none take off from the other runway in use. If two landing runways are in use, the one assigned first will be the one lying in the direction from which the traffic arrives. If the amount of incoming traffic becomes too high for that runway, the traffic can be directed to the other runway in use. That avoids delays. The government has imposed rules for the use of the runways. These are laid down for LVNL in the Schiphol Airport Environmental Information Regulations.

The use of runways has a major influence on taxiing times, the occupation of parking spaces and the system of taxiways. Runway use also has major effects on traffic handling in the airspace around Schiphol and consequently, in Dutch airspace as a whole and the adjoining airspace. Changing the runway combination therefore has a major impact on handling. 

Daytime runway use between 6.00 a.m. and 10.30 p.m.

During peak times, three runways are usually in use at the same time. At certain times, this may even be four. Outside peak hours, two runways are in use. In exceptional circumstances, only one runway may be in use. This is then used for both take-offs and landings. By day, many different runway combinations of two and three runways are possible. The runway combination is changed a number of times by day. These changes are the result of changes in traffic volumes and changing weather conditions.

Runway use at night between 10.30 p.m. and 6.00 a.m.

At night, one runway is in use for take-offs and one for landings. In principle, only the Polder runway and the Kaag runway are used. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol makes the runways available to the air traffic controllers, who then assign the runways to the aircraft.

How does Schiphol's runway system work?